Sunday, July 29, 2012

Sixth Fleet: Crisis in the Middle East - Day 1: PM Action Phase

Silly me, it seems my first posting on my ongoing Sixth Fleet game is wrong.  I believed that the whole first day was over but apparently I've only covered the first action phase of Day 1.  Continuing with Action Phase 2 (PM Action Phase) on Day 1 here:

The Soviets roll initiative for the afternoon and immediately set off to take out those pesky Israeli patrol boats.  The Turks have declared war on the Russians already and will be in the game from tomorrow so there's no need for the Soviets to tread gingerly.  They immediately send off three squadrons of T-16 bombers to fly from the Crimea south through Turkey and into the Eastern Med, where they promptly and easily dispatch three flotillas of Israeli patrol boats.

Soviet bombers devastate the Israeli fleet near Lebanon.

The Americans activate their surface ships and decide that the Egyptian task force along with the remaining Israeli surface ships will team up with the American carrier task force in the area for protection and try to wait it out near Cyprus before attempting an amphibious landing tomorrow morning.

The Soviets let their subs go to work around the Med.  The Nezhin creeps up on the US and Egyptian task forces but is soon chased off and its torpedoes find no purchase.  However, a group of US ships near Sicily suffers a horrible loss when the replenishment ship Detroit is hit and damaged by a Soviet torpedo.

Combat action near Sicily:  A Soviet sub scores a hit on the Detroit.

The American submarine, USS Boston, tries to take on a Soviet submarine.  Both of them maneuver for a killing shot but there's no joy to be had.  Way over in the Atlantic, the USS Drum fires a torpedo at the Russian sub, the Shuya, and damages it.

The Soviets activate their surface fleet, sending a small task force of ships from Benghazi out towards Malta. This could be interesting as it's about to run smack into the group of US ships (with the unfortunate Detroit) near Sicily.  Soviet Task Force 3 with the damaged Minsk withdraws from the eastern Med and decides to chase after the same group of US ships near Italy.  Libyan patrol boats fire missiles at these same US ships but poor aim and lots of good AAA coverage provides a nice shield against the incoming SSMs.

The Syrians move their patrol boats out to harass the nearby US carrier task force.  The Soviets keep their Task Force 4 in port, sitting under protection of air cover and fighter CAP.  The task force consists mostly of amphibious ships with some light escorts so there's no need to be picking fights with the Americans. This Soviet invasion force is still not detected by the Americans and it makes no move to blow its own cover.  The Israelis have sent out their subs to find out what's going on and so now the Eastern Med is getting crowded once again.

The Eastern Med is getting crowded again...

The US has final activation in this action phase and sends out its air units toconduct a daring daylight carrier raid against the Syrian base of Latakia.  The Nimitz launches two escort flights of A-7s with EA-6 Prowlers and some A-6 Intruders.  Several MiG-21s on CAP meet the raid but they are sent scrambling off as the A-7s provide excellent air cover.  The damage to Latakia air base is light but it's a start.

Next up, the night phase!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Band of Heroes: Birds of Prey

Mark H. Walker kindly made "Birds of Prey", a bonus pre-order scenario for Band of Heroes. available for all to play last week.  You can download it from here.

In this scenario, the 101st Airborne meets up with the German Fallschirmjager patrolling the area near Carentan on June 11th, 1944.  It's an infantry-only scenario that lasts six turns so it's a great introduction to the LnL system, not to mention a nicely designed match-up between elite American and German units.

The Americans get six 2-5-4 squads with a couple of Satchel Charges and some BAR automatic rifles while the Germans get 6 units and some machine guns to match the Americans pound for pound.  Victory conditions are determined by number of buildings held by the end of the scenario as well as eliminated units.  Since the setup involves each player alternating their unit placement, things are off to a chaotic and unpredictable start.

By the end of setup, the Americans dominate the west side of the board, grabbing the building down in the southwest...

and a series of small buildings up in the northwest.  

To the east, the Germans hold a large wooden building with thick forests to the north.

and they also have a small building far to the east.

The Germans start off by rushing a squad towards an American squad near the center of the board.  The Americans fire but a German hero is created!  The hero draws a skill card and gets "The Ambush".  

The German hero rolls for his ambush squads and gets a "6"!  Two 3-3-4 German squads are randomly pulled from the cup and they immediately enter melee with the American squad.  
At close range, combat is extremely deadly but the Americans manage to hold on, even eliminating one of the German squads in the process!

The Germans around the wooden building in the northeast decide to make a try for the Americans in the series of buildings to the west.  A hero makes his way to the American position but is wounded as he approaches.  The rest of the German squads start moving west towards the building.

A pair of American squads moves out to get a better firing position at the approaching Germans.  Unfortunately, MG34 machine gun fire shakes one unit up and Lt. Praun and his men close in and destroy the American squad.  They are right next to the American position!

Too bad for Lt. Praun.  Next turn, the Germans lose the initiative and Sgt. Hill and his machine gun team rip into the adjacent Germans, avenging the death of their buddies. The nearest American squad melees the pile of Germans.  The Germans' risky move has backfired badly.

A handful of Americans move towards the ongoing unresolved melee in the center of the board.  Lt. Frietag shakes up the American squad as it heads west and a hero is created!

Cpl. Walker, a humble farmboy from some small town that no one ever heard of, is a dead eye with his Garand rifle and is determined to take out some Germans to avenge his brother's death a couple of years ago in North Africa.

Major Tom and his BAR riflemen decide not to sit idly by in their house far to the southwest and get into the action.  They zip up north and melee a German squad trying to sneak up on the farmhouse.  Capt. Weiss has shaken the American inside and there's no way he's going to let down his men!


Down south, our humble hero, Cpl Walker, moves towards the melee between the Germans and the Americans in the center of the board. The melee has gone on unresolved for about four turns!  Neither side has been able to eliminate the other. Lt. Frietag's MG42 opens up on Walker as he heads for the melee, wounding him.  Despite the bloody wound, Walker pushes on and joins his fellow soldiers in the fray.

Lt. Frietag leaves the safety of the large wooden building and his men fold up their MG42 and follow him out.  They quickly eliminate a shaken American squad in melee.

Up north, however, Sgt. Hill and his men have poured on very effective fire and Cpt. Weiss and his men are shaken badly.  Major Tom, fresh from his earlier melee, approaches Weiss and eliminates the pile of Germans.  Another devastating loss for the Fallschirmjager!

Looking at the board from the south, the Germans are in a bad position.  Only Lt. Frietag remains among the initial German forces although one squad is still (after 5 turns!) stuck in melee with Cpl. Walker and the rest of the paratroopers.  

Major Tom moves into the abandoned German stronghold once held by Lt. Frietag while Sgt. Hill directs fire at the remaining Germans from his position far to the north.  

On the very last turn, the Germans finally eliminate the last American unit in melee.  Cpl. Walker, we hardly knew ye and your agrarian charm.

It's the final bit of the last turn.  The Germans have nowhere to go and the Americans don't want to risk losing their hard-earned gains.  Both sides call it quits for the day.

The stunning conclusion:  The Germans lost and badly.  The Americans took out 8 German units for 16 victory points and they also held on to 6 hexes worth of buildings to make it a total of 22 victory points.  The fallen Germans include two officers, one hero and several 2-3-4 and 3-3-4 squads.

The Germans manage to hang on to one building hex and take out 5 American units (1 SMC and 4 MMCs) for a total of 11 victory points.  22 to 11.  A lopsided victory to say the least.  I'd like to try this one again and see if I can't find better ways to attack building strongholds with the Germans.  Rushing a large group of men adjacent to an American machinegun position ended in predictable results.  On the other hand, there were several wild cards in the game including a melee that went on for six turns, a number of heroes popping up unexpectedly, and some initiative rolls that could have resulted in very different outcomes.  Great stuff!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Sixth Fleet: Scenario 9 - Crisis in the Middle East (Part 1)

I've wanted to write an ongoing AAR of an advanced scenario in Sixth Fleet so I thought I would start it up today and just sort of play and update it when I get a chance.  Things are getting busy for me at work so I'm not sure how often I can update the blog but I'll do my best.

I'm going to play a "short" scenario with all the bells and whistles.  Since there's no way I can justify using the table space for a prolonged period, I'm going to be using Vassal to play the game.

So in this scenario, the Syrians have attacked the Israelis and the political situation is very confused.  The Soviets have deployed to the Mediterranean and are causing problems and the US is trying to keep open the sea lanes from the Atlantic to Israel.  I'm going to choose a "Low Preparedness" level for both sides.  This makes it slightly less work to set up the game and, given the scenario description, it just seems like the right way to go.

So let's consult the Neutrality table and find out who is allied with whom, shall we?

USSR allies

USA allies

Wow, that is messed up!   The biggest surprise was getting Yugoslavia for the USA and Algeria for the USSR.

The Algerians get a few scant units to play with over in the Tyrrenhian Sea Zone while the Libyans get small flotillas and a handful of planes.  Yugoslavia hasn't got much in the way to make a real difference. The real strength in the region is Israel, Egypt and Syria, which puts the scene of the action over in the Eastern Med.

The big victory points for this scenario are Beirut (30 points for the US and 40 for the Soviet) Famagusta (30 points for the US), and Malta (30 points for the Sovs).  The allies also grant a few VPs too:  Tobruq is worth 10 for the US,  while Vis (Yugoslavia) and Rashid (Egypt) are each worth 10 for the USSR.

Since the US has plenty of friends in the Eastern Med, it sets up its carrier forces with the Nimitz in the area while the USSR puts a couple of nuclear subs there and sits a task force to the west.  The last time I played this scenario, I set up the US fleet way to the west where they had no allies and I quickly paid the price for it.  This time, I parked the carrier task force close enough to Beirut to start sending in guys as soon as possible.

Political Phase:  A UN breakthrough occurs and +1 is added to all die rolls for resolving the conflict.

Weather:  Beautiful and clear around the Med. today.

C/C and Sat Recon:  Command and Control is fine.  Satellite recon is not available for either side.

Day 1 begins:

Strategic Air Phase:
Major surface formations are detected in the Eastern Med.  3 T16 Recon Badgers sent out for Tac Coordination with the Soviet fleet are bounced by an Israeli F-15.  Half a flight of T16s is lost and the others lose their nerve and return to base.

Invasion Phase:  Neither side gets any paratroopers or commandos to start with.

Task Forces:  The Soviets get some large task forces near their base in Syria, not to mention the carrier task force sitting on the western edge of the E. Med.  They also make a pair of task forces up in the Crimean bases.  The US makes a carrier task force with the Nimitz over in the Eastern Med and one task force on the other side of the map with the Rota.

All the interceptors everywhere go on CAP to provide a nice umbrella defense for the various task forces sitting near the coasts.  The Soviets, wary of cruise missile attacks against their bases in the Crimea, station some MiG-21s on CAP.

Task Force Phase

The major task forces are assembled.  The US assembles carrier task force 1, which is way over in the Eastern Mediterranean.  To the west is the Soviet task force 1, which includes the Minsk and some other heavy hitters.  US Task Force 2 is based out of Rota over in Spain.  The Soviets have a couple of other task forces sprinkled in the Crimea as well as a major task force of ships sitting in the Syrian ports of Latakia and Tartus.

Action Phase 1:

The US activates its surface forces.  The Texas launches cruise missiles at Saki where the Soviets have their bomber forces stationed.  Unfortunately, the base air defenses work quite well and although some light damage occurs, all of the air units are fine.

Israeli fast patrol ships move up towards the Syrian ports and try to block off the Soviet task forces assembled there.

US Task Force 2 moves out from Rota and begins its long journey east to join up with the carrier task force.

Action Phase 2:

The USSR activates its air units and decides to launch its bombers from Saki AFB.  The most direct route for them is Turkey, so they fly overhead.  Turkey gets really angry and an alignment check rolls 2, which means they will become a US ally next turn.  The bombers are held back by F-14 CAP but take no losses and return to base.

A Syrian Su-20 bombs an Israeli patrol boat sitting near Latakia in hex 0948.

Action Phase 3:

The US goes with air and the Nimitz launches some A-7s and A-6 Intruders to hit at the Soviet task force with the Minsk.  Although a close call, they break through the Soviet air defenses and the A-6 Intruders manage to land a hit on the Soviet fleet, damaging the Minsk!

Rest of Game Turn 1:  Not much else exciting happens.  The Soviets move their subs to either end of the Med, trying to take on the American task forces.  The Israelis are parked in the Beirut hex, which prevents the Soviets from landing any troops there.  After dispatching a couple of subs to take care of the problem, the Israelis are out three patrol boats.  There is a real traffic jam around Beirut as the Egyptians, Soviets, Americans and Israelis jostle for position there.

Everybody into the pool!  US, Egyptians, Israelis, Soviets crowd around Beirut.

Day 1 is finished and it has been bloody for both sides.  The Soviet Navy's pride and joy, the Minsk, has been damaged despite the benefits of staying under Syrian air cover.  The Libyans are anxious to start hurting the American fleet while the Algerians and the Moroccans don't quite know what to do with each other at this point.  Despite clear weather, no one has been able to land troops today.

The diplomatic situation seems to be advancing quickly.  I wouldn't count on this conflict going on too long right now.

Playing with full supplies on, it's hard to keep track of all the individual units, not to mention time consuming.  Both the Egyptians and the Israelis have used up most of their ASW fending off subs and their SSMs have been severely depleted.  What will day 2 bring?  Update coming next Saturday!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Nations at War: The Arnhem Campaign - Scenario 4: Hold the Line

Captain McCloud looked north towards the small town of Wolfheze nervously.  It was his charge to keep it in British hands now.  But somewhere out to the east were German tanks and men advancing straight for them.  If the British 10th Para could not hold the small town, the Germans would soon march into Arnhem and reclaim it, reversing all the hard British  efforts of the past 3 days.

The late September heat was oppressive and the wounds he suffered in defending against the German counterattack on Arhnem two days ago were finally starting to heal.  However, there had been no time for proper rest as the Germans meant to steamroll back into the city, this time with even more tanks and men than before.  Although a British landing was scheduled to come later today with fresh troops, there would be only death waiting for them if the Germans advanced into Wolfheze.  Once again, everything came down to him.  He tried to appear confident as he watched one of his men sitting on a large fallen tree branch sipping tea from his canteen and reassembling his Bren Gun. A distant rumbling sounded to the east.

British set up defensively around Wolfheze (Ste. Jeanne).

The German tank commander, Lt. Wurtz wiped his brow and ordered the Panzer IVs to advance on to Wolfheze.  With a long line of German infantry behind him, his job would be relatively simple.  He was to pour as much firepower as possible on the city of Wolfheze before the German infantry assaulted the town.  After securing that town, they could quickly advance on Arnhem and have this whole unpleasant business over with soon enough for him to return on leave and see his young wife, Anna, on her birthday.  This was the only incentive he needed to start moving his tank platoon.

German tanks and infantry set to advance.

The Germans advanced straight down the road towards Wolfheze, avoiding the obvious traps such as  the forests.  Taking the road and the high ground was a bit risky in itself but much better than going into the dark and deep unknown of those ancient forests to the south of the town.  As his Panzer IV slid onto the highway, its tracks hungrily ate at the concrete below and the rear exhausts belched out smoke behind them.  They were carnivores searching for prey and they would find it.  

Just as a slight smile creased his lips, Wurtz heard a screaming sound behind him and turned to see a flight of British bombers - Tornadoes, they called them - loose a payload of bombs to their south.  He ducked reflexively as the bombs fell harmlessly about 200 meters to the southwest.  Chatter on the radio took a suddenly buoyant tone after the bombers flew off.   It seemed fate may be on their side.

British Typhoon bombers miss the Germans.

Ten minutes later, however, fate proved a fickle ally.  Another flight of Typhoons hit an infantry column behind them.  The nearby explosions were enough to ring his ears and he could see that many of the British bombers had scored direct hits on the advancing German infantry just behind him.

The Typhoons return and destroy an entire German infantry platoon.

Captain McCloud ordered his men to be patient.  With so few men to protect Wolfheze, it was best to wait and find out about the German plan and then thwart it rather than to go looking for trouble.  He would let the Germans march as close as possible to the small town and then try to engage them at close quarters.  FISH - he called it - Fighting in Someone's House.  There would be a lot of that today, he reckoned.

One of McCloud's scouts finally reported back the positions and movement of the oncoming Germans.  He sent Lt. Chapman and a platoon of men into Wolfheze to wait for the Germans and prepare a surprise welcome for them. The 3 inch mortar platoon to the south had been firing ineffectively for the past 30 minutes and he finally decided to let them pull back.  The fighting was going to be at close quarters so there was no need to start firing mortars all over the town and into everyone's lap.  

Germans start to surround the town and the Brits wait...

Lt. Wurtz sent his tanks up the hill and sat on the crest near the city.  One of his scout cars came back, reporting that the British were set up in the forest to the south of town.  With that, he ordered an artillery strike on the area.  Spotting rounds landed far to the south near a small pond and he sighed as the German artillery battered the pond and slew all the aquatic inhabitants in a matter of minutes.  If the German army had been at war with fish, it could have counted the off-target artillery fire as a great success.  As it was, he hung his head in frustration for a moment before watching the column of German infantry behind him advance up towards Wolfheze.

Lt. Chapman and his men had secured several houses facing to the northeast and did not need any convincing to fire on the unsuspecting German infantry as it clambered towards the city.  Soon, however, it was obvious that they simply did not have enough firepower to destroy the Jerries. The German infantry moved up into the woods to the north and Chapman ordered his men to cease fire.  Ammunition and supplies were tight, he reasoned, so best save it for the main event.

McCloud looked far to his south and watched German artillery pounding away at absolutely nothing.  He didn't need to tell his men the obvious.  Everyone knew that those deadly rounds had been meant for them.  It was time to move.  The Germans were too close to the city and their final assault would come soon. 

The Germans moved into the north of Wolfheze and Chapman grinned.  Soon they would come and his men were ready to absolutely maul them.  The only fear he had were the German tanks lined up on the hills to the east.  How would McCloud deal with those?  It was then that he heard the great German guns firing away.

A reduced German infantry w. HQ takes the north of Wolfheze.

McCloud and one of his platoons made it into Wolfheze - just barely.  Stunningly accurate German tank fire had cut down many of his men as they pulled back into the town.  As they all scrambled for cover from the German guns, discipline started to waver.  A handful of his men cowered in the streets in fetal positions while others simply stood and watched the upper floors of several buildings explode around them.  Brick and wood frames started to spill into the street.  He looked around and he was suddenly alone.  

Lt. Wurtz was having a very good day.  The British had been silly enough to try and run through open ground to retreat back to the city and prepare a defense.  His Panzers had cut many of them down on the way and now they were shelling the south of Wolfheze.  He could only imagine the hell of being in that place right now were they were firing non-stop for ten minutes.  He looked at his watch and a cease-fire order came over the radio net.  It was time to advance.

The German tanks descended grumpily from the hill and poured into the town.  One of his tank platoons was lost but the others rushed through the streets, firing at anything that was moving.  British soldiers ran away in panic or stood and stared as his huge machines turned everything before them into rubble.  20 minutes later, Wolfheze was theirs and he climbed down from his tank to scoop up something shiny that had caught his eye.  Bending down, he noticed a beautiful silver trinket in the shape of a tulip.  He stuffed it in his pocket.  "And now I even have a nice present for Anna," he thought.

End of turn 8.  The Germans have captured Wolfheze.


Well, with the British loss in Scenario 4, that brings us to the end of the Arnhem campaign.  The result for the campaign is a Draw, which is actually not so bad considering how tough things are for both sides.  There is real accountability for both players in terms of your decisions here because Pyrrhic victories can and will cost you subsequent scenarios.  I believe that is exactly what happened in this case.  I had enough RP to buy a Typhoon close air support chit but not enough to also reinforce the rest of my remaining Paras.  The Typhoons performed admirably but it may have been better to go with more practical decisions in terms of buying replacements and support weapons.

The Arnhem Campaign is simply terrific.  It gives you lots of decisions to make as the British player and there are so many choices to make from scenario to scenario.  The campaign nature of the game really forces you to play your best.  What might have made the campaign a bit better was an option to play as the Germans with RPs so both players could share in the fun.  Also, a Chaos marker is also a nice addition to any scenario but I can also understand why the designers left it out.  A big thanks and kudos to Matt Lohse for such a great and ambitious approach to the NaW system!